Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Understanding Ourselves by Understanding the Past.


My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sneak Preview 2: A Excerpt from Chapter 1 of "Envoy of Jerusalem"

The 3rd book in the Balian d'Ibelin series opens in Tyre on the day the news of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin reaches the city. This scene focuses on the impact of Hattin and the subsequent collapse of the crusader kingdom for the survivors.



Mass ended and the clergy withdrew on slipper-shod feet. A lady kneeling in the side chapel dedicated to St. George, crossed herself, rolled back on her heels and rose. She was shrouded in a dark veil trimmed with a single band of gold embroidery that covered her head and body all the way to her knees. Standing, it was clear that she was both tall and slender. She took a coin from her purse, purchased a thin beeswax candle, lit it and stood it upright in the box of sand. The light from a half dozen candles already burned. They glinted on St. George’s gold mosaic halo as he stood in the stirrups of his white horse to stab his lance down the throat of a green-scaled, red-eyed dragon.

The lady turned and flung the lower right corner of her veils up over her opposite shoulder to partially cover her face, but even so she heard someone whisper in awe, “The Dowager Queen!” as she passed.

On the steps of the church, two beggars closed in on her instantly. One pushed his legless body on a wooden platform with little, hand-wrought wheels that squeaked piteously. The other was more importunate, coming close and whining, “Alms, my lady! Alms! I lost my hand at Hattin.” He held up a stump wrapped in dirty rags.

“You’ll rot in hell for your lies, Peter of Paris!” A gruff voice barked out of the darkness, adding: “You lost your hand for cheating at dice ten years ago!” A tall burley man in chainmail under a voluminous cloak emerged from the shadows. The knight was no longer young. His mustache was completely white, his hair predominantly that color, and his face was deeply lined by life, but the sword at his hip was not decorative and he moved with the vigor a man still capable of wielding it. The beggars melted away before him, and the Dowager Queen gratefully hooked her gloved hand through his offered elbow.

“Thank you for waiting for me, Sir Bartholomew,” she greeted him. “I’m afraid I was longer than intended.”

The old knight growled back, “Plenty to pray for this night, my lady.”

The Dowager Queen stopped in her tracks and looked up at him in sudden understanding. “Your daughters and their children! Do you think they were in Jerusalem?”

“I’ve had no word from them at all,” Sir Bartholomew answered grimly. “None.”

Queen Maria digested that fact as they resumed walking. Sir Bartholomew held a fief from her second husband, the Baron of Ibelin. He had no sons, just two grown daughters, the eldest of which was already a young widow before Hattin, and the younger married to a man who had fallen at the battle. Although Sir Bartholomew had fought his way off the field of Hattin with her husband, he, like the rest of the surviving fighting men, found himself cooped up in Tyre, while the rest of the kingdom fell city-by-city and castle-by-castle to Salah ad-Din. Sir Bartholomew’s daughters and their still small children had been left behind on their peaceful manor just a few miles from Ibelin — land now held by the Saracens.

Sir Bartholomew broke in on her thoughts. “There’s really no reason to think they made it to Jerusalem. More likely they went to Jaffa. It was closer.” But Jaffa had fallen to the Saracens before Jerusalem, and if his daughters had not found their way to Tyre by now, then they were almost certainly captives. Slaves. Queen Maria shuddered and her hand closed around her companion’s elbow in a gesture of helpless sympathy.

“My grief is only a single tear in the sea of misery, my lady,” Sir Bartholomew summarized his situation astutely.
"That doesn't make it less intense," Queen Maria replied simply. They continued in silence through the darkened streets.




My three-part biographical novel is dedicated to bringing Balian, his age and society "back to life."



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